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One minute with... Maryanna Sharrock

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What’s keeping you busy at work?

A wide variety of things – which is just how I like it! M&A is busy due to the possibility of CGT increases, there are VAT and duties questions arising as a result of Brexit and Covid, I have just finished an Upper Tribunal hearing, and clients are also looking at various corporate restructurings.

If you could make one change to tax law or practice, what would it be?

Can I be cheeky and suggest a law and a practice I’d like to be changed? I would like to find a way to ensure that taxpayers’ obligations are clear in law rather needing to be ‘untaxed by guidance’. I have been involved in a number of consultations on draft legislation where we have pointed out that the legislation is too widely drawn or that it is not based on a clear concept of what is, or is not, in scope, only to be told that the position will be explained in guidance.

I would also like to see the exemption threshold for stamp duty for the paper transfer of shares raised to a more realistic level. At present, the limit is £1,000 so that the duty payable is just £5, which means that the compliance costs are excessive compared to the tax take.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

My first boss, Sir Amyas Morse, gave me a great piece of advice. He told me never to be afraid to admit that I had got something wrong. It won’t be easy, but rather like going to the dentist with toothache, the sooner you get it over with, the better, and afterwards you will be glad you did it.

Are there any new rules that are causing a problem?

I am not sure whether I would describe it as a problem or an opportunity, but the consultation on asset holding companies for the fund sector is definitely interesting. Funds are such an important sector for the UK economy, and post-Brexit the UK needs to be able to offer fund structures that can compete for business with other jurisdictions. This is not just a tax challenge but a company law and regulatory challenge too, so it is good to see that the consultations are being run in parallel.

Has a recent tax case caught your eye?

There isn’t one specific case, but I can never pass by a case on tax avoidance whether it is disguised remuneration, stamp duty land tax or other planning. I am privileged to sit on the GAAR panel, and this has made me very aware of the extensive activity that still takes place in this area.

What should we look out for later this year?

I think the experience of Covid and lockdown has taught us that we can make significant changes at pace. We can do deals without going to the office. We can move to a computer-based stamp duty system. We can have virtual tribunal hearings. I hope this may encourage legislators to be bolder, and that we may see real changes in the tax system in sectors such as life sciences and technology to stimulate the economy and to support our commitment to reach net zero by 2050.

You might not know this about me but...

I am very fond of cats and currently share a home with three: Frederica, George and our lockdown kitten, Oscar, who now, like lockdown, is approaching his first birthday. I find it helps to keep a packet of cat treats on my desk to bribe them away from their favourite sleeping spot: my laptop. 

Issue: 1521
Categories: One minute with